Voices: Taking Back ‘Columbus Day’

For the United States of America to have a federal holiday in honor of that particular moment of “discovery” in 1492, is unconscionable on many levels.

To celebrate that moment is to celebrate the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.

To cheer about Columbus is to cheer the coming of the first European slave trader to the Americas.

To praise what happened in 1492 is to implicitly praise the very real and very terrible results of that contact between peoples.
– Jessica Luther, Speaker’s Corner in the ATX

Many Native Nations (and even states) have already taken measures to change the name of the Columbus Day holiday. One example is South Dakota, where this day is referred to as Native American Day, and coincides with the large He Sapa Wacipi Powwow celebrations.

Another example is the Chickasaw Nation’s celebration of their historic war chief and diplomat, Piomingo. Piomingo established a friendship with George Washington and the new federal government, and paved a way for cooperative living. President Washington had believed that the republic would not only honor Indian boundaries, but protect them. Sadly, future presidents didn’t share Washington’s belief.
– Dr. Jessica Metcalfe, Beyond Bucksin

We are still here, and we’re not all sitting around in Tipi’s, wearing feathered headdresses, or speaking in broken “Tonto speak.” We are able to combine western education and traditional culture as a means to move our communities forward. When Columbus landed on the shores of the bahamas over 520 years ago, he started a legacy of genocide that nearly wiped the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas off the planet. We weren’t supposed to survive, but here we are.
– Adrienne K., Native Appropriations

You know, you definitely can embrace the pain and the genocide that has been our history and our foundation, and that is definitely a valid emotion, a valid, you know, almost reaction for indigenous people. And I think as you grow in awareness and maturity and are given opportunities to present, we have to go beyond that. And what I mean by that, individually we all go through our own healing. We don’t have a healing process in this country called the United States. There is no platform, no medium, no expectation of that. And, you know, as tribal people, we’ve—that’s been part of our worldview, you know, just like Noel said, where, you know, we see everyone as coming from a tribe, whether they acknowledge it or not. And it’s super important for us to start that healing process and then, as well, to talk about it and to guide other people around their own trauma, which it is an historical trauma. It’s legitimate, and it is as valid as the pain where some people have no idea where it came from. And that discovery is—you know, to give articulation to that is so powerful, it’s so emotional.
– Esther Belin, writing instructor, Ft. Lewis College, interview with Democracy Now

Let’s come clean. Let’s tell the truth about Christopher Columbus. Let’s boycott this outrageous holiday because it honors a mass murderer. If we skip the cute song about “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” I don’t think our first graders will miss it much, do you? True, Columbus’ brutal treatment of peaceful Native Americans was so horrific… maybe we should hide the truth about Columbus until our kids reach at least High School age. Let’s teach it to them about the same time we tell them about the Nazi death camps.

While we’re at it, let’s rewrite our history books. From now on, instead of glorifying the exploits of mass murderers like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon Bonaparte, let’s teach our kids about true heroes, men and women of courage and kindness who devoted their lives to the good of others. There’s a long list, starting with Florence Nightingale, Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy.

These people were not adventurers who “discovered” an island in the Caribbean. They were noble souls who discovered what is best in the human spirit.

Why don’t we create a holiday to replace Columbus Day?

Let’s call it Heroes of Peace Day.
– Eric Kasum, The Huffington Post

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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  • xcarryxmyxhrrtx

    As a kid, I was so happy to have a day off from school, that I would gladly sing about anyone crossing the ‘ocean blue’ and make pilgrim hats all day. But as an adult, this holiday doesn’t sit well with me. I’m glad my college doesn’t give us the day off for an event not worth celebrating. Great post!
    Right on, Racialicious Team!

  • dersk

    I like the idea of renaming it ‘Explorers’ Day’…